On the southeast side of Phuket Island is a bulge, that looks like land as you look at a small map. Enlarge it and you’ll see Koh Sireh which is actually an island. On the way to this island you’ll find the Monkeys Koh Sireh attraction which everybody speak about. Actually these monkeys are common long-tailed macaques (M. f. fascicularis).
This primate is common around Thailand, along with a number of other macaques, gibbons and langurs. The common long-tailed macaques are the monkeys most commonly interacting with people. They are most common at some temples where there is extra food from the monks and magi (nuns). The macaques eat leaves in the forest, but when around people they will greedily eat anything within range, including bananas and just about any other fruit, soda or sports drinks, fried noodles, literally anything they can get their hands on.
Tourists think the monkeys are cute and they seek them out for photos and videos. Sometimes the monkeys are calm and are safe to interact with, and sometimes they are not. There are a few cautions you can keep in mind as you are among them, so they don’t bite. Bites are horrible, and require emergency room visits and a series of shots to ensure tetanus and possibly rabies don’t infect the bite victim.
Monkeys Koh Sireh visit cautions:
– Don’t bare your teeth to the monkeys as you talk, smile, or make faces at them. When you bare your teeth, that is seen as aggressive behavior and you might find yourself fighting with one if you do so.
– If a macaque grabs food or beverages you are carrying, a bag or something else – that means nothing – don’t fight, just give it to them. They will attack in a pack if they are seriously threatened. Nothing is worth that.
– Put all valuables that you don’t want stolen under your shirt. That includes sunglasses, mobile phones, video cameras, jewelry, your purse and/or anything else.
– We strongly recommend you don’t take children near the monkeys, as they are less likely to remember the cautions above and they may startle them and cause a problem.
– Eye contact is discouraged. Not all the time, but occasionally when monkeys are not in the mood – eye-contact might be seen as threatening and aggressive – and they will growl and bare their teeth at you.
– Macaques are VERY moody. Around 6 to 7 pm. when they are climbing back into the trees to sleep, they can be very cute. Baby macaques may playfully grab at your feet or legs just to touch you. In the mornings they can be crazy, possibly because they’re hungry, and they are more likely to be aggressive in the morning and on hot days.
Once you are on a visit at Monkeys Koh Sireh you should take a look around the island. There are two Theravada Buddhist Temples (Wat Si Rea and Wat Koh Sirey) which are worth a look.